The Noble Calling: Motherhood

May 12, 2007

The disparagement of the noble vocation of motherhood is virtually epidemic in our culture. But today, we have an culturally-supplied and providential opportunity to begin to put that right in our own thinking, attitudes, families and churches. Mother’s Day! Yes, the U.S. version has some has some dubious historical associations (though the U.K. "Mothering Day" has an older and more wholesome pedigree) and one of its early promoters/advocates/founders in the U.S. herself lamented its commercialization to the point of becoming an opponent of it! And no, I’m not advocating that we follow the "Hallmark Calendar of the Christian Year" in our churches.

But it is important for all Christians to take stock of the huge blessing of mothers whose primary vocational preoccupation is with their family, especially since so many today find it difficult to believe that familial duties and delights are in themselves capable of providing women with a sense of fulfillment or significance, or of being an adequate deployment of a woman’s gifts and abilities. Thabiti Anyabwile’s excellent post will get you thinking about how we can honor our mothers.

By the way, in exhorting Christians to honor their mothers and to appreciate motherhood, I do not intend any disrespect to or oversight of the many, many wonderful Christian women who are not mothers. On the contrary, we honor them. But we recognize that many today find it difficult to believe that motherhood is a sufficient expression of a Christian mother’s inherent gifting and potential.

So, I simply wish to remind those who are Christian mothers of the supreme importance of motherhood in the plan of God and to encourage them in their great task. For whatever else you are and do, nothing will be more important, more crucial, or more significant in the life of your children than your being a faithful Christian mother. I do not wish anyone to rob you of your sense of the value of what you do as a mother, or of your sense of the critical position of influence which the Lord has given you.

May I remind you how history has hung in the balance because of the influence of mothers? A casual glance at the record of Israel’s kings will remind you of the power which a mother can wield, for good or evil (cf 2 Kings 8:25-27; 11:1-2). Mothers are absolutely crucial in the formation of the spiritual character of their children. Think of Timothy, Paul’s "son" in the Lord. Yet his initial commitment to the Lord was not due to Paul’s influence. Under God, his mother (and grandmother!) had shown him the way of the Lord (2 Timothy 1:5). And remember Augustine — that great theologian of the early Church? It was his mother Monica who prayed him into faith in Christ, and trained him in word and deed about the life which Christ intends for his people. When he wrote his great devotional book —Confessions— after his mother’s death, he said: "I will not omit a word that I can bring to mind about my mother!" Praise be to God for good Christian mothers! May your husbands and children rise up and call you blessed (Proverbs 31:28).

Finally, we should all remember that Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for many godly Christian women: those who have longed for the call to motherhood, but who have not received it; those who have suffered the loss of children; those who have straying children; those who once had the help of a spouse, but who now face the challenge of parenting alone; those who have painful memories of or difficult present relations with their own mothers. So, even as we honor our mothers, let us remember too these sisters in Christ in prayer, that they too may know God’s blessing, approval, and comfort.

By the way, our friends over at girltalk have some superb reflections for those struggling with wounded hearts on Mother’s Day.